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Pennsylvania suffering from ‘baby bust’

The good news is that Pennsylvania’s children of the 1960s and ’70s are growing up and having babies of their own. The bad new is they’re having them outside the state.

As a result, Pennsylvania is experiencing a severe “baby bust,” which has been showing up in population trends for at least a decade. According to U.S. Census Bureau estimates, the number of children under age 5 fell by 1.2 percent between 2000 and 2002, with nearly early every county in the state having a decline. Between 1990 and 2000, that age group fell by 9 percent.

Penn State professor Gordon Dejong contributes the drop to economic factors that have driven young people out of the state. He noted the current generation is reproducing at the same rate as its parents, “but they are having them in Atlanta (or someplace else) and not Philadelphia.”

Unless this trend is reversed soon, it will result in several serious problems for the state. Many of our best and brightest young minds are seeking their fortunes elsewhere, robbing Pennsylvania of valuable assets in business, industry, education and other fields.

The effects will also be felt politically, where population is everything when it comes to allocating U.S. House seats and electoral votes. Population is the reason New York and California have more political influence than West Virginia and Wyoming.

The baby bust and the exodus of 20- and 30-somethings are raising the state’s average age. It is now fourth highest in the nation at 38.9 years, and it figures to go higher. It has been joked that the state’s motto should be changed from “You have a friend in Pennsylvania” to “Let me tell you about my grandchildren.”

The effects are already being felt in schools, where the number of students fell by 11,672 between the 2000-2001 and 2002-2003 school years. Small schools in rural districts are going to have a tougher time staying open.

The way to reverse this decline is to make Pennsylvania a more attractive place to live. States with rising populations have low (or no) state income taxes, limited bureaucratic red tape for businesses and amiable labor environments. Pennsylvania has none of those, and Gov. Rendell is working to get a tax increase through the state Legislature.

Maybe the motto should be, “Let me tell you about my grandchildren; they live in Georgia.”


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